Around the Nation
CONNECTICUT Despite a Superior Court ruling banning the practice of charging some gun applicants $24 for an FBI background check, some police departments are still doing it.
\DELAWARE A rapist who attacked seven women New Castle County between 1989 and 1992 was sentenced to two life terms Oct. 3. Michael Sipie, 30, must first serve a 35-year sentence in Maryland for attacks on women in Ocean City, and then a 13-to-26-year term in Pennsylvania for rape.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA Automatic cash machines have been installed at the 4th, 5th and 7th District police stations to enhance customer safety.
Kobi Mowatt, Jermaine Graves, and Marcel D. Washington pleaded guilty Oct. 17 to racketeering conspiracy charges. The three defendants were initially part of a case brought against a ruthless gang one year after one of its members, Bennie Lee Lawson, walked into D.C. police headquarters on Nov. 23, 1994, and shot to death Sgt. Henry Joseph Daley, and FBI agents Michael J. Miller and Martha Dixon Martinez. FBI agent John D. Kuchta, was seriously wounded. Lawson killed himself.
MARYLAND Three Baltimore police officers were charged with theft Oct. 16 after allegedly trying to sell Baltimore Orioles tickets they had seized from scalpers.
Project Clean, an operation by Prince George’s County police to dismantle an open-air drug supermarket in Langley Park, resulted in 163 arrests of buyers and sellers during September. Undercover officers bought crack cocaine from dealers, while uniformed officers took photographs of each suspect. Instead of arresting them after each purchase, police waited and then swept them off the street quickly and simultaneously. The arrested drug buyers, only 41 percent of whom live in the county, included accountants, electricians, a medic at Walter Reed Medical Center, and an aerospace engineer.
Over 9,500 cars were broken into in Baltimore during the first seven months of this year for the purpose of stealing cellular phones.
MASSACHUSETTS The rape conviction of former Boston police officer Joseph Brewer, 32, was vacated Oct. 3 by Judge Patti Saris after the prosecutor said he could not remember why he excluded four of six blacks from the juror pool. Brewer served nearly seven years in prison.
NEW HAMPSHIRE The State Police last month set up a Family Service Section that will deal with domestic violence, especially in rural areas, as well as with missing persons and juvenile problems.
NEW JERSEY North Hanover Police Chief Larry Hopkins last month released a list of more than a dozen criminal mischief and harassment investigations conducted by police between April 1994 and March 1996, to help the state Attorney General’s office in its investigation of bias crimes in northern Burlington County. In September, 11 people were charged with waging a racial harassment campaign against the town’s black community.
NEW YORK A judge in October accepted former New York City police officer Desmond Robinson’s plea to a misdemeanor assault charge, despite objections by another officer who claims Robinson raped her. Lisa Friel, deputy chief of the district attorney’s sex crimes unit, said the victim’s story differed markedly from what investigators discovered. Robinson was wounded by a fellow officer in a controversial 1994 “friendly-fire” shooting.
Hundreds of demonstrators picketed the Bronx County Courthouse and a police precinct last month to protest the acquittal of Officer Francis X. Livoti on a charge of criminally negligent homicide in the 1994 death of Anthony Baez. Acting Justice Gerald Sheindlin, who heard the case without a jury, offered a scathing assessment of Livoti as a police officer but said he did not believe that the prosecution had proved Livoti’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Livoti, 37, still faces department disciplinary hearings for using a prohibited chokehold on Baez, and he may also face Federal civil rights charges.
A Bronx police captain was injured and a Brooklyn lieutenant killed Oct. 19 in two separate incidents. Lieut. Frederico Narvaez, 40, was killed by Harvey Richardson, a career criminal with a rap sheet dating to 1957, after he stopped to question the man about stalking a woman. Narvaez, well liked by both colleagues and neighbors, was shot through the eye. Capt. Steven Plavnick, 47, was in critical condition after being shot by a sniper outside the 46th Precinct. Officials have theorized that Plavnick’s shooting may be an act of revenge for the acquittal of Officer Francis Livoti, also assigned to that station. [See related item, above.]
Gov. George Pataki vetoed a bill Oct. 11 that would have raised salaries for New York City police sergeants and lieutenants by $7,000 to $9,000. The legislation required that sergeants and lieutenants assigned to the detective or organized-crime bureaus be automatically given higher job titles and pay after 18 months.
New York City Police Deputy Insp. Arnold Dansky was transferred last month, docked three days pay, and barred from promotion after making offensive remarks about Hispanics during a roll call in March. Dansky, former commander of Queens Transit District 20, said that Hispanics are always drinking, live in single-room occupancies, and are always on welfare, said Officer Sixto Martinez, an official of the Latino Officers Association.
New York City police Det. Zaher Zahrey, 32, was named Oct. 16 in a nine-count Federal indictment charging him with being part of a drug gang while working with the Brooklyn North strategic narcotics and guns unit. Officials said $186,000 was stolen by the gang from an armored car in 1992 during a heist in which a security guard was killed. While Zahrey did not participate in the hold-up, said prosecutors, he discussed it with gang members afterward and may have shared in the loot. Zahrey is also charged with stealing $46,000 and two kilos of cocaine in a June 1993 robbery and providing handguns, bulletproof vests and police badges to gang members.
New York City Police Officer Brian Jones was shot and killed Oct. 13 by what authorities say may have been “friendly fire.” Jones, who was off duty at the time, was shot during a gun battle in Brooklyn where he had gone to settle a personal score with an armed convict. Two other off-duty officers, Mark Thomas and Michael Murphy, were suspended when they refused to tell investigators what happened that night.
Neal Ebrus, 33, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, was arrested Oct. 7 on charges of trying to solicit a $25,000 bribe from a Rockland County doctor in return for stopping an investigation of the doctor’s alleged diversion of drugs for personal use.
New York City Police Officer Frank Speringo was convicted of manslaughter Oct. 11 for shooting a woman at a Washington Heights restaurant. Witnesses testified that Speringo was heavily intoxicated when he entered the restaurant on Sept. 17, 1995. The victim, Maria Rivas, 26, was shot in the head when Speringo’s gun went off during a scuffle. Speringo faces 15 years in prison.
PENNSYLVANIA The trial of three men who charged with killing Officer Lauretha Vaird, the only female Philadelphia officer to be killed in the line of duty, began Oct. 15. The defendants, Warren McGlone and Christopher Roney, both 26, and Ernest Mark Canty, 23, are claiming that their confessions were coerced. Vaird, a 43-year-old single mother of two, was killed last January during the botched robbery of a PNC bank branch in Feltonville.
Robert “Mudman” Simon pleaded guilty last month to charges that he shot to death Franklin Township Police Officer Ippolito “Lee” Gonzalez in 1995 after he and his co-defendant, Charles “Shovel” Staples, were stopped moments after committing a burglary. Both Simon and Staples are members of the Warlocks motorcycle club. Simon, 45, who could face the death penalty, has a criminal record dating to 1960, when he was just 8 years old. He had been out on parole only 11 weeks when he killed Gonzalez, having served more than 12 years for killing his girlfriend.
RHODE ISLAND State Police have placed a recruitment ad in Options, a newsletter for gays and lesbians, in an effort to diversify the ranks.
Providence police officers made nearly immediate arrests of murder suspects in three separate cases between Sept. 11 and 16. Patrolman James Conti of the department’s Domestic Violence Unit arrested a suspect within minutes of the murder of 23-year-old Maria “Shorty” Rivera. Officer Michelle Tella, who is the daughter of Police Chief Urbano Prignano Jr., arrested Juan Guzman, 18, after the killing of Jorge Diep. Two suspects in the murder of 15-year-old Ivan Bravo were arrested by Patrolman Kenneth Simoneau, who was working an off-duty detail at the time.
ALABAMA The police and fire departments in Notasulga are said to be rebounding from a recent wave of resignations sparked by the August re-election of Mayor Bubba Langford. Half of the town’s 10-member police force quit in protest.
FLORIDA A rash of fire bombings of Miami businesses with links to Cuba have caused $200,000 worth of damage but no deaths or injuries.
Acting Miami City Manager Merrett Stierheim and Police Chief Donald Warshaw issued a joint statement Oct. 8 in which they dismissed as “absurd” reports that the Police Department’s homicide squad would be cut due to the city’s $68-million budget deficit. The city has asked police and other municipal workers for $15 million in concessions to help close a 1997 budget gap.
Dormain J. Young, 24, a North Miami school security monitor, was charged Sept. 25 with raping an 8-year-old girl he was escorting to the bathroom. Because the victim is under 11, the charge is a capital offense.
Some 1,500 inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes will be immediately eligible for parole following a unanimous ruling by the state Supreme Court that barred the state Department of Corrections from expanding the scope of a 1995 law requiring inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.
LOUISIANA A Terrebonne Parish deputy sheriff walked out of a bank in Houma peacefully Oct. 18 with his estranged wife and another hostage after a 24-hour standoff with police that left a teller dead. Deputy Chad Louviere, 24, was charged with murder, several counts of kidnapping, rape and battery.
MISSISSIPPI The U.S. Justice Department last month filed suit against the Canton Police Department to force the promotion of Lieut. Vickie McNeill to assistant police chief with back pay and compensatory damages. The suit charges that McNeill was passed over because she is a woman, although she is ranked as the most qualified.
NORTH CAROLINA Only six guns were confiscated by school-resource officers in Forsyth County last year, compared with 36 guns in 1993. The officers, who are credited with reducing the number of guns in schools, are helping to prevent crime by building trust with students, said Capt. C.C. McGee, president of the state’s association of school resource officers.
SOUTH CAROLINA An Immigration and Naturalization Service training academy will be housed in the former Charleston Naval Base until at least 1999. The academy will train 3,000 new Border Patrol agents.
VIRGINIA Troy Webb, 29, was pardoned Oct. 16 by Gov. George Allen after DNA tests proved Webb did not commit the rape and robbery for which he served seven years in prison.
Stefan Tahmassebi, a National Rifle Association lawyer, is challenging a requirement by Tazewell County Judge Don Mullins that everyone applying for a concealed-weapons permit undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Tahmassebi said the requirement clashes with Virginia law.
ILLINOIS Foot patrols on the Western Illinois University campus at Macomb are being increased, as are vehicle patrols around its outskirts, after a 15-year-old girl was abducted by several males. She was later freed.
Rogers Park District Police Officer James Mullen, 32, was in critical condition after being shot in the face Oct. 16 by a 61-year-old security guard, George J. Guirsch. Guirsch, who has not disclosed his motive for shooting the officer, allegedly fired the shots after Mullen and another officer knocked on his door to question him about shots Guirsch allegedly fired in the direction of the Chicago Transit Authority elevated tracks. The shot that hit Mullen entered through his right cheek, bounced off his jawbone, and lodged in his neck near his spine.
Kankakee Police Officer Anthony Samfay was fatally shot Oct. 17 after pulling over 22-year-old Eric Lee. Lee who had no outstanding warrants or prior criminal background, allegedly got out of his car and shot Samfay once, knocking him down, and then continued to shoot at him. Although he was wearing a bulletproof vest, Samfay died at the scene. The last time a Kankakee officer was killed in the line of duty was 1913. Lee is being held without bail on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated vehicular hijacking for allegedly stealing a woman’s car after the shooting. Samfay, 26, joined the department two years ago.
Three Deer Creek police officers who resigned over a dispute with Mayor Stan Schlappi are calling for his resignation. Schlappi used them, they said, to spy on his enemies. The Mayor said he would welcome an investigation, but will not resign.
INDIANA Richard Burleson, an Indiana State Police trooper, was fired Oct. 9, two days after being charged with two felony counts of criminal deviate conduct and 12 misdemeanor counts of furnishing alcohol to minors. Police said Burleson had touched an 18-year-old girl in a sexual manner without her consent and performed oral sex on her.
KENTUCKY Former Pike County Judge Charles Huffman III, 41, was sentenced to 15 months in prison Oct. 7 despite Federal prosecutors’ recommendation for probation. U.S. District Judge Joseph Hood said that although Huffman had admitted to extorting painkillers from a defendant and cooperated with authorities, he had committed “the greatest sin a judge can commit.”
Hardin County Deputy Sheriff Karen Davis filed a Federal sexual harassment suit Oct. 3 against Charles Logsdon, the U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Kentucky. Davis claims that Logsdon, a former Hardin County sheriff who was appointed marshal in 1994, grabbed her crotch and put his fist between her breasts last year in his office. His actions were witnessed by another deputy. Logsdon’s actions were “extreme and outrageous,” humiliating Davis and causing her severe emotional distress, said her attorney.
MICHIGAN Former Detroit Police Chief William Hart’s 10-year sentence for embezzlement was reduced to eight years last month after he helped prosecutors convict a former police officer who provided protection for FBI agents posing as drug runners. Hart was convicted of stealing over $2 million in police funds.
Four Michigan police officers have been named as the 1996 recipients of the 3M/International Association of Auto Theft Investigators Vehicle Theft Investigation Award, for cracking an auto-theft ring that stretched from Seattle to Detroit. The two-year investigation by Det. Lieut. David Gentry of the Michigan State Police, Det. Robert Greene of the Van Buren Township Police Department, Det. Larry Fortier of the Detroit Police Department and Agent Dennis Bielskis of the National Insurance Crime Bureau resulted in seven arrests and the recovery of approximately 1,400 major component parts from nearly 25 vehicles. Overall, the investigators recovered nearly $1 million in vehicles and parts.
OHIO Until liability insurance can be found, a 385-member volunteer unit that helps the State Highway Patrol will be disbanded. The volunteers answer phones and direct traffic at special events, among other duties.
Former Cleveland police officer Kenneth J. Walsh has replaced Donald A. Adams as chief of the Fairlawn Police Department. Walsh, 48, retired from the Cleveland PD in September after 26 years, the last of which was spent as captain in charge of the Ports and Harbors Unit.
The state’s new computerized identification system went on-line in October, giving investigators the ability to scan prints from a crime scene and compare them to 12 million prints stored in the system’s database.
WEST VIRGINIA Seven members of a paramilitary group involved in an alleged plot to plant bombs at the FBI’s identification center in Clarksburg were arrested Oct. 11 by Federal agents. Among those arrested was the leader of West Virginia Mountaineer Militia, Floyd R. Looker, who was charged with transporting explosives across state lines and plotting to bomb the center. There is little indication from the court documents, however, that any member of the group took specific steps to bomb the FBI facility.
WISCONSIN Complaints by parents have forced the state to close a halfway house for convicted sex offenders that was located next door to an elementary school in Madison.
Terry L. Madlock, a former Milwaukee County sheriff’s deputy, was sentenced Sept. 27 to a year in jail for shaking down speeding motorists and pocketing the cash. Madlock, a 16-year veteran, was charged in at least 18 incidents that occurred between February and May when he stopped motorists and told them he would reduce their fines on the spot.
IOWA Prosecutors, police and victim aid groups will all be part of the Stop Violence Against Women Coordinating Council, an anti-domestic violence group to be led by Lieut. Gov. Joy Corning.
KANSAS The Topeka Fire Department last month acquired one of just 56 dogs in the nation that can sniff out chemicals used in arsons, when Holmes, a black Labrador, joined the agency. More than half the city’s fires each year are arson.
MINNESOTA Carver County officials last month asked Sheriff Al Wallin to resign after an audit showed his department had misspent thousands of dollars on parties and gifts.
Lawmakers will consider next year a measure that would revoke until age 21 the driver’s license of any juvenile caught driving drunk and restricted teen-agers to daytime driving.
Tom Hines, publisher of The Crusader, an anti-crime newspaper, has agreed to print a retraction after a number of St. Paul residents were mistakenly identified as child molesters when a flier was inserted into the publication without authorization.
MISSOURI A judge in Booneville last month ordered drug charges dismissed against Larry and Ruth Sheldon of Greenville, Ky., because a State Police trooper had neither a search warrant nor the driver’s permission when his drug-sniffing dog jumped into the Sheldons’ car last year and detected 105 pounds of marijuana. A state trooper had pulled the Sheldons over for a broken taillight.
Cellular phones, athletic jackets and caps with logos were banned in October by the Kansas City school board after a series of robberies around bus stops.
A $1.6-million Federal grant will allow the state to substitute civilians for at least 66 troopers currently holding office jobs, and reassign the troopers to road-patrol duties.
MONTANA Republican state Senator Jim Burnett is drafting legislation that calls for a spanking on the bare buttocks of any adult or teen-ager found guilty of vandalism.
NEBRASKA Two Department of Administrative Services employees working at the State Patrol were suspended last month. One, a guard, was cited on suspicion of gambling; the other was found with 750 obscene photos downloaded from the Internet onto his state-owned computer.
Omaha school officials are considering installing video cameras in school buses to curtail misbehavior by students.
NORTH DAKOTA The new chief of the Bismarck Police Department is former Beloit, Wis., deputy chief Richard Thomas, whose appointment was announced Oct. 9.
ARIZONA Federal prosecutors have reduced the charges against members of the Viper Militia and have backed away from original assertions of a concrete conspiracy to attack government buildings. Six of the 12 members who had faced two counts each of promoting civil disorder now face only one such count each. In addition, a new indictment handed up in early October does not use the term “training persons in the making and use of explosive devices for use in obstructing the Federal Government.”
A move by Mesa prosecutors to have DUI charges tried by a city court judge instead of a jury is expected to be the focus of a state Supreme Court challenge. Defense lawyers oppose the move; prosecutors claim jury trials are more expensive and time-consuming.
COLORADO Grand Junction Police Chief Darold Sloan has opted to take early retirement following a drunken driving arrest on Sept. 28, according to City Manager Mark Achen.
NEW MEXICO One-hundred-and-three invoices totaling $10,240 are being sent out to Bernalillo County inmates for the cost of their jail stays. This first batch was sent to inmates released during the first week of October.
Hobbs Police Chief Bill Morrill said Oct. 15 that his department is investigating allegations that officers used excessive force to arrest six black men at a high school football game.
OKLAHOMA Prompted by last year’s Oklahoma City bombing, the Municipal Court building in Tulsa has begun using a metal detector to screen for weapons. Purses and briefcases are also being searched.
A former Oklahoma City police officer, Kenneth John Griffin, 36, was sentenced Oct. 1 to three years in prison for falsifying medical bills to obtain relief funds meant for the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing. Griffin, who claims he had money problems, resigned in April when he was charged with taking $5,407 from four charities and attempting to obtain $6,286 with two false medical records.
TEXAS A 70-year-old man from Rural Hall, N.C., Guy Hemrich, was arrested in Edna on Oct. 15 after 3 million Valium pills, worth an estimated $20 million, were found in his vehicle. Investigators believe the drugs were smuggled in from Mexico.
In hopes of stirring up fresh clues, the Harris County Sheriff’s Department has posted a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of whoever abducted and killed deputy Roxyann Allee five years ago. Allee, 34, a well-liked mother of two, was off duty when witnesses say two men approached her van and forced her in at gunpoint. Investigators later found Allee’s badge, ID card, and bloodstains inside the abandoned vehicle. Her body was found dumped in a field. She had sustained a number of gunshot wounds.
Harris County sheriff’s deputy James Manuel Phillips Jr. was one of 11 people indicted in October on charges of participating in a Houston drug ring allegedly connected to the Cali cartel in Colombia. Philips was released on $200,000 bail. Sources close to the case told The Houston Chronicle that more arrests are expected and some of those could include other law enforcement officers.
A Federal jury in Houston on Oct. 16 convicted Juan Garcia Abrego on 22 drug-trafficking counts. Prosecutors claim Abrego, a one-time Texas laborer, controlled one-third of the cocaine sold in the United States. He will be forced to forfeit $350 million of his drug-related money. The 52-year-old Abrego was first arrested in Mexico on Jan. 14. Officials said Abrego paid millions in bribes on both sides of the border before being nabbed, sedated, and flown to Houston by Mexican police.
CALIFORNIA Kevin Mitnick, a convicted computer hacker who was the focus of a nationwide manhunt, faces new charges that he engaged in a multimillion-dollar software-theft spree during his three years as a fugitive. Mitnick was indicted by a Federal grand jury Sept. 26 on charges he stole computer programs from companies, damaged computers at the University of Southern California, and used stolen passwords and cloned cellular phones.
An 8-year-old Sacramento boy who was caught shoplifting food in October led police to his home where he and his sister had spent nearly two weeks with the decomposing body of their mother, Janice Castorena, 38. Castorena is believed to have been stabbed to death by her husband, Robert, who vanished two days later.
California Highway Patrol officers have arrested Jose Soto, 21, and Hugo Hernandez, 22, in connection with a mysterious rash of window-shattering attacks on cars traveling on Southern California highways that began Sept. 11. The attacks, 240 of which were reported, typically involved a projectile being hurled through a vehicle’s back or side window. The suspects were followed after they left Soto’s Los Angeles home. A search of the car and Soto’s home turned up a sawed-off shotgun, a 9mm. semiautomatic pistol and an AK-47 assault rifle. Marbles and a stock of BBs were also discovered. While Soto and Hernandez are admitted gang members, police have not yet confirmed a widely-held theory that the attacks were some form of gang initiation.
Riverside Superior Court Judge Gordon R. Burkhart last month turned down a public defender’s pretrial request that a deaf jury be impaneled since both the victim and the accused in a rape trial are deaf, as are most of the key witnesses. The public defender, Mara Feiger, contends that unlike translating one spoken language into another, sign language is so dependent on body language that jurors who are not deaf or who do not speak American Sign Language would be unable to judge the accused properly.
U.S. Customs officials say as many as six people a week are being caught trying to cross the border with canisters of Freon. The gas costs $600 in the United States, but only $160 in Mexico. Thieves have been known to spray the gas on case-hardened steel anti-theft devices, such as the Club or a Kryptonite bicycle lock, and then shatter the lock with a hammer.
Citing safety concerns, Los Angeles city officials are calling for a dusk-to-dawn curb on the use of all ATMs not located in grocery stores or police stations.
HAWAII Citizens on Patrol, a Honolulu watchdog group, is moving its operations into downtown Hilo to fight drug dealing, prostitution and panhandling.
NEVADA With the help of nearly $30,000 in privately donated matching funds, Elko County will apparently meet its goal to qualify for nearly $200,000 in Federal grant money for a proposed juvenile gang task force, Sheriff Neil Harris said last month.
Reno City Councilwoman Judy Pruett, who is under fire for calling police “thugs” and “ruffians,” said last month that she would not resign, despite the demands of a group calling for her recall.
OREGON A black man, Antoine Jamar Dean, 21, was sentenced Oct. 7 to five years in prison for burning down a mostly black church in Portland in June. The arson attracted national attention because it ocurred during a time when black churches were being burned nationwide.
WASHINGTON The City of Tacoma has agreed to pay $950,000 to a couple injured in a 1992 car crash. The car of Drewey and Mona Scarberry was broadsided by a carload of gang members being pursued by police. Drewey Scarberry was partially paralyzed.
Three men believed to belong to the Phineas Priesthood, a white supremacist group, were charged in Spokane Oct. 9 with bank robbery and conspiracy. Charles Barbee, 44, Robert Berry, 42, and Jay Merrell, whose age is not known, are all from the Sandpoint area of northern Idaho. Authorities attributed two of the robberies of the same Spokane Valley bank in April to the men, and said three pipe bombs were set off as diversions in connection with the holdups.
Some 41,000 people arrested statewide for drunken driving over a 12-month period refused to name the tavern where they had taken their last drink. Only 5,558 people complied, according to official records.